How do we hear our call, recognize it, and live it out when we are not able to see past challenges ahead of us?
Vicar Mollie Hamre
4th Sunday in Lent, Year A
Texts: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The man’s “blindness” is not the headliner for the Gospel today.
It’s not an ailment that needs to be fixed or even the focus of the story. Blindness is not a condemnation, something that even Jesus notes in the Gospel. The focus is the way this man’s story grows into a proclamation. This man lives and recounts his story of gaining sight five times. And each time, his awareness and conviction grows stronger. In verse 11 we hear him say “the man called Jesus” and this description of Jesus grows. It turns to calling Jesus a prophet, to stating Jesus is a man from God, and ends with declaring Jesus as Lord. This man from the Gospel does what many of us seek out: hearing one’s call, recognizing it, and proclaiming it.
Hearing, seeing, and knowing Jesus is not something that is granted upon those who are chosen or just blessed enough. It is like anything else we do, when we compassionately seek and ask questions with open minds, God is there.
The first time the man born blind interacts with Jesus, he can not see Jesus.
He can only hear Jesus’ voice giving two small directions: go and wash. When the man returns, being able to see, Jesus is no longer there. Which leaves the man to describe his experience to those questioning around him where this person who helped him gain sight went. His reply is simple: I do not know. What he does know is that something has taken place and his life will never be the same. This man is someone who was looked down upon, who people accused of sinning, and yet, he is the one who teaches in the end. He is the one preaching that God listens and works through those we would least expect.
So, when we hear this Gospel, we hope to be the man born blind.
The person who hears Jesus’ voice and follows it amidst the confusion. But sometimes we don’t and instead are left with the sinking question: “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Our biggest fear. What if the one’s blind to God’s call is actually us? That we could be the ones not doing enough, ignoring the voices of those that are oppressed, and missing the call to love one another. It is a scary thought that weighs a guilty conscience on us in a world full of turmoil. If only we could fix every problem, every lie in the media, and sweep away the oppression that is happening in our world. And when we ask where Jesus, God with us is, sometimes the answer is: I do not know. And that as a starting point, for all of these daunting questions, is okay. We will sometimes be the blind and yet, we are told that Jesus comes to us to open our eyes.
Notice the places our community is already doing this:
This past month of February 109 families with 163 babies total were assisted with receiving diapers through the diaper packing and delivery program. Partnerships with Align Minneapolis provided rental assistance for families that are at risk of being without homes. And we hear prayers each week for our global and neighborhood partners addressing food insecurity, mental health services, and relief to those around the world. There are many more ways our community impacts those around us that I have not mentioned, and these are wonderful ways God calls to this community. Do not ignore the power of that call.
With all of these extraordinary things, we know there are places for growth too.
In this past month alone, 72 people came through our doors seeking help. 13 families were added to the waiting list for diaper deliveries. People in our community here are without homes and affordable housing is hard to find. Our shelters are overwhelmed. Our community knows families seeking out safety and being faced with immigration policies are difficult to navigate. It’s a lot.
So where do we start?
It makes me think about learning a new language. If I have never spoken a language before, I will not recognize it at first. I will not know how to speak it. But if I talk to those who speak the language. If I seek out understanding and lessons. If I seek out times of growth to be immersed in the language. If I try speaking the language and see how it feels coming from my own mouth, I will learn a new language. It takes time and persistence. These are all aspects of a long-term commitment to immersing oneself in the call that our Triune God has to each of us. By listening to one another. Holding one another’s burdens, vulnerabilities, and listening to each other stories of loss, questions, and worries. By looking to our community and listening to where the Spirit calls us.
These words and this work are not a light load.
And not one that rests on a single individual’s shoulders either. Discerning where the Triune God calls us as individuals and as a community, all at once, working together. It asks that we recognize and seek Christ in one another. It asks that we listen to the ways God is calling us to love our neighbors, locally and globally. If we are to hear God’s call, in our community and life together, we must begin at listening for the voice of Jesus. To the voices of one another and our neighbors outside these walls. To trust that even if we are walking into challenges blind, that Jesus, God with us, meets us along the way.
In the name of the Father, and of the ☩ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.